This Week #40

16th – 22nd January 2017

Monday saw a return to London after the weekend as Marion travelled to Parliament for a week of meetings, briefings, and debates.

On Wednesday, Marion was hard at work in Parliament, in particular as part of the Education Select Committee and in attendance at Prime Minister’s Questions.

On Thursday, Marion asked the Leader of the House to make time to discuss the state of UK banking following the announcement that the Airdrie Savings Bank will close after 180 years, meaning 70 people will lose their jobs. The Airdrie Savings Bank provided a fantastic service to people in Lanarkshire and it is a great loss to the area.

The closure is the result of tighter banking regulations following the 2008 economic crash meaning that gambling bankers have indirectly led to the closure of the UK’s last independent savings bank.

Marion also welcomes the statement from her Westminster colleague, Neil Gray MP, and Alex Neil MSP, in which they make it clear they will make efforts to help employees find alternative employment.

Marion also received an answer to a submitted written question on mobile telephone coverage in Lanarkshire:

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what steps she is taking to improve mobile telephone coverage in Lanarkshire.

Matthew Hancock, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, responded:

Improving mobile connectivity across the whole of the UK is a priority for the Government. The Ofcom licence obligations arising from the December 2014 agreement mean that the four Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have a legally binding obligation to provide voice/SMS text coverage to at least 90% of the UK’s landmass by end-2017. Additionally Telefonica (O2) has a licence obligation to deliver indoor 4G coverage to 98% of UK premises (95% in Scotland and the other Devolved Administrations.) The Digital Economy Bill, currently going through Parliament, will give the regulator Ofcom the power to issue large fines to mobile phone companies who fail to meet their licence obligations.

The Government’s agreement with the MNOs locked in investment of £5 billion and is delivering improved coverage across the UK. Ofcom’s 2016 Connected Nations Report shows that 98% of Scottish premises now have indoor voice coverage and 62% have indoor 4G data coverage from all four MNOs (up from 22% in 2015). Our proposed reforms of the Electronic Communications Code, will support further investment and improvements in connectivity across the UK and reduce not spots.

Friday meant Marion was back in the constituency, undertaking a busy day of meetings with local people and organisations.

The Motherwell and Wishaw MP also received responses to written questions, including one on the Child Maintenance Service – a subject Marion has been keen to discuss recently:

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what criteria were used to determine the Child Maintenance Service’s enforcement charges, including liability orders, lump sum reduction orders, regular deduction orders and deduction from earnings orders and requests.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Caroline Nokes, replied:

Enforcement charges are intended to encourage parents to comply with their commitments, as well as to help off-set the administrative cost of taking enforcement action. The enforcement charges are lower than the actual cost to the Department for taking the action. To charge the full cost could have an adverse effect and encourage non-compliance, as well as being potentially disproportionate to the size of the debt. The levels are designed to be proportionate to the type, and seriousness, of the order that is being pursued.

Enforcement charges are only collected once the ongoing maintenance and any arrears due have, been paid.